Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why San Miguel? And definitely why Mexico. Those questions haunt me continually. I'm mid sixty, reasonably healthy and enjoying some of the best business years of my life. So why, for heavens sake, would I risk it by moving to Mexico? Life is one long journey that moves through a world of sight, of sound and smell. To be alive is to experience these sensations to the fullest. I have always been jealous of my friends who live in their old neighborhoods and still have, for a best buddy, their friend from first grade. That did not happen to me. I've been pushed and pulled along all my life. Because life is comfortable doesn't mean I'm coasting to the finish line. I can learn to speak Spanish, I can eat lamb brain quesdeasas, I can make an exciting new life, with the woman I love, in a place and culture completely different from what I know. Life is like a travel book and some of us never get past the first chapter. I know to fully love life you need to keep turning the pages. My head long rush is not going to be a complete abandonment of Texas civilization as it may appear. My sweetheart and myself are currently looking for a part-time home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Mention this to a Mexican and he'll tell you it's a Gringo town. This is true. The continuous presence of tourist and expatriates makes the town livable but also keeps prices high, the housing bubble has not completely deflated here. Starbucks coffee and McDonalds burgers are available if not completely approved by the locals. Bullfights still occur in the town's bullring and strolling musicians cover every venue. Night time is still for strolling around the town square and TV sets are not glaring from every window. Life here is still "Manaya", if it doesn't happen today, it isn't over, your on Mexican time. The world climate change is doing a number on us here in Texas. It's just the first of June and the heat index is forecast to be one hundred and eleven tomorrow, so in the tradition of many former Texans, we're looking for a summer home. In the past it was the great migration to Colorado in the summer, but that's getting pricey. Right now, as I see it, the best climate at the best price is six thousand feet up in the desert mountains of Old Mexico.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What can you say about two lost cameras in three days. Not from bandito's robbing me in the streets but my leaving them in the back of taxi cabs! After losing the first one I discover that they do have a modern shopping mall in the outskirts San Miguel. One store, Liverpool, did have a nice assortment of Nikon cameras and a short stroll down the outside mall brings you to a new McDonalds. Definitely not part of the south, no iced tea. Can you believe that? With my new Nikon in tow I take about two hundred beautiful pictures over the next few days in anticipation of posting them on this blog. Some were really great views from high above the city looking down on the towns' fifteen historic churches. One great shot was at the Old San Miguel Train Station where Neal Cassidy was found dead on the tracks. Neal was the real life hero of Jack Keroac’s novel On the Road and a founding member of the Beat Generation. Neal died here in 1968 after attending a wedding, high on some unknown cactus byproduct he probably did not have a camera either. So, after leaving mine in the second taxi I decide I was not meant to share San Miguel pictures with you yet. The ones here I pirated from the internet. This trip was a lot more relaxed and we got to know the city better. From its finer restaurants and bars, of which there are 94, to the shady tacqueria under the tarp that served lamb brain empanadas, we loved every minute of it. Don't gag until you've tried the lamb brains, they were delicious. Sort of like fois gras. We went to the Tuesday Market with a guide we met last time. Richardo is a cool guy to shop with. He takes my Sweetheart anywhere she wants to go and deals with the local farmers and merchants when she can't figure out the pricing. The produce was luscious and beautiful, priced much lower than in the grocery stores we had visited. There were all sorts of food and candy vendors. Ham & pineapple seemed to be the favorite pizza. My Sweetheart got a cow head meat taco which she enjoyed. Unlike our trip in February, when the trees were without foliage, this time the leaves were out and the flowers were in bloom. That still leaves the dessert looking like a high dessert construction site where they are planning to pour concrete, but with green leaves on the trees. I now see there is a difference between the trees and the cactus. In San Miguel you always find something to do and festivals are a large part of the cities life. From celebrations starting with New Years, including King's Day, La Candelaria, all of Holy Week, the Day of the Cross, Los Locos, independence celebrations all of September, the Day of the Dead andthe Christmas Posadas, the only thing I found that they don't celebrate is Cinco de Mayo. This holiday appears to be only a Texas tradition. All of these holidays involve a lot of fireworks, usually starting early and ending late. And interesting fact is that San Miguel has free wireless service in the main square, called the Jardin, but the Jardin is mostly used for watching Senorita's not browsing the internet. San Miguel has beautiful spring like weather year round and is well know internationally as one of ten most visited cities in the Americas and Europe. The towns population has doubled in the last ten years to about 135,000 of which at least 20,000 are those rich gringos that keep prices elevated and the local merchants smiling. And smile they do. We're still looking at houses to buy. My Sweetheart is always ready to hop to it but I'm trying to go a little slower. Holding her back is a hard job! Till the next time.....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLDENDE

With the exception the new Starbucks Coffee much of the San Miguel de Allende’s historic center remains much as it was 250 years. The Starbucks is next to our hotel and facing the city plaza or Le Jardin as they call it. My sweetheart made the connection before we even checked in. It was raining when we arrived, which was quite unusal for this time of year. San Miquel has been experiencing the same weather we have had in Texas. The previous year had been dry and then rains starting in the following February. The layout of the center of the city is mostly a straight grid, which was favored by the Spanish during colonial times. However, due to the terrain, many roads are not straight. There are no parking meters, no traffic signals and no fast food restaurants. San Miquel is mostly a walking town. City dwellers rarely own cars. These streets are lined with colonial era homes and churches. The architecture is simple, with well-tended courtyards and rich architectural details. The houses have solid walls against the sidewalks, painted in various colors, many withbougainvillea vines falling down the outside and the occasional iron-grated window. Many of the larger structures have large front doors which used to be used by horses and carriages.
In the historic center, which is called the City of two thousand Doors” and behind each door there are at least two thousand courtyards of various sizes. Many of these have been restored to their former colonial state, with facades of ochre, orange and yellow, windows and doors framed by handcrafted ironwork and made of hewn wood. The interior roofs are flat, of heavy mortar supported by large beams. The houses are built lot line to lot line with no outside windows so the courtyards are where the private gardens were, protected from dust, excess water and crime.
The town of one hundred thousand people is noted for it’s narrow cobblestone lanes, that rise and fall over the hilly terrain. It is still a small city, with clean air. At night, many wander the narrow streets with relative safety. The people on the streets are a mix of Mexicans, foreigners and indigenous. Its cultural and artistic reputation has brought many people from Mexico and abroad here to live. Of the people who live in San Miquel about 20% are foreigners. Retired American, Canadians and a few Europeans make up the expatriate population. At 6400 feet elevations the climate is almost perfect. The landscape is high Desert with miles and miles of cactus and an occasional burro.
It’s easy to fall in love with this beautiful City. We did. You can see pictures of our local realtor and the ranch on which we plan to spend the summer. We are looking forward to a return trip in a few weeks. Life seems to be unfolding a new adventure, I just want to embrace it and love what happens.